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Reclaiming my name

By Angela Mendez

Section: Opinions

September 16, 2016

On Sept. 1, I posted the following status on my facebook wall.

This has been on my mind for a while, but I have now made up my mind.
Starting from this moment on, I am reclaiming the Spanish pronunciation
of my name. No longer do I want to be addressed as An-juh-la. My parents
named me Angela (pronounced Ahn-HEY-La) after my beautiful and lovely
grandmother. By reclaiming the Spanish pronunciation, I am showing pride
and respect to that.

I was born and raised here in the United States. This meant I had to attend school at a young age within the American education system. I was taught to read, write and speak in English. I did not realize it then, but I was also taught to change the pronunciation of my name. I was taught to say it in English.

Growing up, people pronouncing my name in English was not a problem. I was simply accustomed to responding when people called me An-juh-la. I didn’t think it was that important. That is until this past summer when I met one of my coworkers from Harlem RBI, a baseball camp that strives to end summer reading loss in addition to teaching team values to children.

My friend’s name is Noemi (pronounced No-eh-me). Her name is also pronounced in Spanish. During our training for Harlem RBI, we had a workshop about race and the amount of diversity we would encounter when working with the children. This was an amazing workshop to have because aside from highlighting different perspectives and views, many of my coworkers and I established what was important to us and what we expected from one another.

At some point in the discussion, Noemi spoke up and said, “My name is No-eh-me. My name is not Naomi. Issues of race are sometimes so deeply embedded into our society that names are often not even said correctly.” When she said this, everyone was stunned. This seemingly small fact that tends to be overlooked shows how problematic issues of race are. This was monumental for me because what she said resonated with me deeply.

Saying my name in Spanish is so incredibly important because if someone mispronounces it or refuses to say it correctly, they strip not only the significance, but also the meaning behind my name. I cannot let my history, my story, my background be erased like that and essentially become Americanized. That is not okay.

I was named after my beautiful and lovely grandmother because she was a natural-born leader with many admirable qualities. My grandmother was a strong, kind-hearted soul who was able to overcome many obstacles in her life. She was admirable for being who she was inside and out. My parents recognized that and they wished for me to be the same. They wanted me to be an exemplary woman just like her. I hold pride in that.

For this particular reason, I make it a point to reclaim the Spanish pronunciation of my name. My name is Angela, pronounced Ahn-HEY-La. I deeply appreciate when people make the effort to pronounce it correctly.

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